For Your Renting Pleasure

That’s right, my write-up for rentals has changed yet again.  This time around (and hopefully I will stick to it this time) I will write up little blurbs about the movies I have seen in the past week on Fridays, giving you suggestions for what to pick up and what to avoid when considering what to rent that weekend.  On this weeks list we’ve got: The Back-up Plan, The Last SongOperation: Endgame, Repo Men, The Runaways, A Single Man, and The United States of Tara.

Fight for the Last Copy:

United States of Tara: Season One

This Diablo Cody created, Showtime TV show is about a woman who has recently gone off the medications that have helped to suppress the other faces of her multiple personality disorder (or dissociative identity disorder).  Toni Collette plays Tara, and the way in which she moves in and out of these other personalities is pure artistry.  Though this is a serious topic, it does not shy away from the humor of it all, thanks in large part to the people she becomes.  In the beginning she is aware of three: Alice is a 1950s housewife, Buck is the redneck hick with a heart of gold, and T is basically the teenage slut, but eventually another emerges (but I will not spoil in for those who want to watch) in response to the overriding story arc of Tara digging into her past to discover what caused this disorder to take form during her teen years.

The show does not just stop with how this disorder effects Tara, but shows the strain it puts on her family.  John Corbett plays her supportive husband who i leading the search to discover her past and must constantly coral the other personalities (though he is far from ashamed of his wife). They also have two children together played by Brie Larson and Keir Gilchrist, each with their own issues to work through during the season, both in relation to Tara and just being a teenager.  Also, Rosemarie DeWitt adds another point of view as Tara’s sister, who is still unwilling to believe that this is something Tara can’t control.

The first season is only 12 episodes long, each about 30 minutes each.  This may not seem like a lot of time for a dramedy, but they are able to fit an amazing story arc and plenty of character development into this short amount of time.  In a nutshell, it is a must see.

Final Grade: A

A Single Man

To state it simply A Single Man is a beautiful, artsy film that is not afraid to experiment with the editing and presentation of the story as apposed to a more conventional approach.  The acting from the cast is great on all accounts, with appearances by Matthew Goode, Julianne Moore, Nicholas Hoult and Ginnifer Goodwin, but a huge, heaping amount of praise should be thrown at Colin Firth for his representation of George Falconer as he goes about his day after finding out that the love of his life has died.  As the day progresses memories and the inner working of Falconer’s mind affects how the film is presented, working in flashbacks as they naturally flit through a person’s mind, as well as simply editing out sound, slowing down time, etc. to further present Falconer’s internal processing and evaluation of the world around him.  A beautiful, ominously solemn soundtrack tops adds a great finishing touch.

Final Grade: B+

Rent:

The Last Song

I will say that like many others I went into this film with the predisposition to hate it.  The movie has Miley Cyrus in it, for crying out loud!  But hey, Nicholas Sparks wrote the book the film is based on, and though I know there will never be a movie that quite lives up to The Notebook (*sigh*) I am more than willing to give his other attempts a try to fill the void.

When the movie starts I was nitpicking and in all honesty Cyrus’ depiction of her moody “I hate the world” mentality gave lots of material for snarky commentary.  Eventually her character comes around and actually starts smiling and being a decent person, and I will admit that Cyrus does a better-than-expected job during this time.  And she can emote too, something that is much needed for Sparks’ works.

The locations and story is also something that seems a little worn in his work.  There is always a part of the Eastern coast in close proximity, love, a wrench thrown in said love, someone with some type of illness, etc., but he still makes me fall for his magic each time.  Though I won’t say that this film was perfect in any way, it still managed to win me over from hating it as I thought I would.  And a cute boy sure doesn’t hurt.

Final Grade: B

Repo Men (Unrated)

At this stage in the future disease has yet to be cured, but man has found a way to skirt the issue as we have a tendency to do by creating artificial organs to replace those that have gone defective in the potential client.  The problem is that these organs aren’t really covered by insurance, with the money putting a huge dent in the patient’s wallet, if they can pay at all.  If they get behind on their monthly installments, well that’s where Jude Law comes in.  He plays a man that does the dirty work for this miracle company, acting as the title suggests as a repo man, or someone who will take back what is no longer yours.  Eventually he has a change of heart (literally), and must come to terms with the company he works with as he is forced to see things through the eyes of those who usually look back at him in fear.

Forest Whitaker takes the role of Law’s partner in (questionably legal) crime and it is pretty fun to watch these two men at the peak of their professional careers, yet as the same time it is sad to think how desensitized to watching violence I have become.  The blood will flow in this film, with a splash of blood here as a throat is slashed or a pool will form there as it drains from a recently vacated chest cavity, but it isn’t until they actually start performing extractive “surgery” that the visuals become disgusting.  These moments of violence fill out an otherwise imperfect story that seems familiar at times, but it is still entertaining enough to forgive the similarities and forgive the tacked on relationship between Law Alice Braga.  Then again, without it we wouldn’t have gotten an awkwardly grotesque and provocative scene towards the end of the film.

Final Grade: B

The Runaways

The Runaways is a biopic of The Runaways (surprising, I know), an all girl rock band that only lasted a year or so during the mid 70s.  Like any film like this (Ray, Walk the Line) the story follows the group as they get caught up in the excitement of the lifestyle, leading to the coveted sex, drugs and rock and roll that eventually leads to their downfall.  Even with this familiar story this film is still worth at least one viewing.

Director Floria Sigismondi is able to create a gritty, dirty look to the film that sometimes seems hyper-exposed at times, reacting to the transitions of the people being portrayed.  The performances from the cast are all great, and a wise choice was made to cast Dakota Fanning as lead singer Cherie Currie.  Obviously we all know that the girl has the acting skills, but seeing this girl that I feel like I have watched grow up in front of me made her role all the more poignant and painful to watch.  She starts out as a more-or-less normal girl of the 70s with a meeker, not that impressive singing voice, but before long she has gained confidence and becomes a presence before her downward spiral into a drugged out trance.  In addition to Fanning, Kristen Stewart gives an equally strong performance both acting wise and vocally as Joan Jett.  However, the surprise star is Michael Shannon as the band’s manager Kim Fowley, who is like a cracked out hamster with poetic words of questionable wisdom.

Going in I didn’t really know a lot of the music from The Runaways (though I didn’t realize how much Joan Jett music I actually know), but the performances of the actors make this a film far more than just another rock-and-roll biopic, even though it is still full of similarities.

Final Grade: B

Possibly Consider:

Operation: Endgame

In some underground facility two highly top secret and volatile teams within the CIA can be found sharing office space.  The Alpha Team and Omega Team act to balance each other out, but today there are different plans when the facility is shut down and armed to explode in two hours.  Instead of working hand in hand to find their way out an all out fight for the death ensues with any weaponry they can make out of the items found within the offices.

The story doesn’t really pan out for me, but that didn’t stop me from loving the idea of this story.  The fights are fun and it actually works well as a comedic action film thanks to the outlandish duels and writing, the cast compiled, and the editing between the brutality and the commentating from Michael Hitchcock and Tim Bagley as they watch and react in horror to these gruesome murders going down on their surveillance big screen.  Yet somewhere it loses its edge, especially with the ending they went with, which seriously knocked the film down a full letter grade for me.  PS (Kind of a SPOILER!!!) – there is no way that Maggie Q would go down like that.

Final Grade: C+

Chop Off Your Hand Before Picking This Up:

The Back-Up Plan

No.  In all truthfulness that is really the only thing that I would need to say about this film.  It just does not work at all.  Jennifer Lopez plays Zoe, a woman who decides to go ahead with the artificial insemination process instead of waiting around for the perfect man.  As an act of cruel fate she meets Alex O’Loughlin when leaving the doctors office.  Surprise surprise.  The story continues as by the book as possible, with jokes that fall flat and acting that makes you cringe.  I couldn’t say that I am surprised on Lopez’s part because I haven’t really loved her in anything since Selena, but I do feel bad for O’Loughlin considering his abs get more praise than the character he is stuck with.  Other than his ripped body, the only other things worth mentioning are Michaela Watkins as Lopez’s hilarious and underused best friend, and Lopez’s handicapped dog.  My advice, find a different back up plan cuz this one will let you down.

Final Grade: F+

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